Socialist: `Reject CIA Conspiracy Theory'
BY GALE SHANGOLD
LOS ANGELES - "Working people should totally reject the barrage of conspiracy theories that are running rampant now," said Thabo Ntweng, Socialist Workers candidate for Congress in the 35th Congressional District. In a recent interview, Ntweng responded to the articles in the San Jose Mercury News alleging that a Nicaraguan drug network with ties to the CIA opened the first crack cocaine pipeline to the Los Angeles Black community.
The newspaper articles by staff writer Gary Webb rehash news about Nicaraguan "contra" operations to profit from the selling of drugs after the U.S. government had officially cut off aid to these counterrevolutionary forces in the 1980s.
"My campaign," said Ntweng, "was for a period of time dead wrong on this issue. Our initial campaign statement said, `Visible united action is key to expose who okayed the racist decision to `target' South Central for cocaine sales to fund the U.S. dirty war against the Nicaraguan people and their government.' We also said the CIA-contra operation `opened the floodgates to crack addiction, ruining lives of tens of thousands of Blacks, many of them young.'
"Rather than a conspiracy or a racist plot," explained Ntweng, "drugs were sold where money could be made quickly, easily, profitably - where there were already middlemen, a distribution network, and a market."
The U.S. government also organized funding for the contras from contributions from wealthy U.S. capitalists, from the royal family in Saudi Arabia, and from arm sales to Iran, later known as "Contragate."
"My campaign attended two public meetings called after the San Jose Mercury News articles appeared, each of which attracted well over 1,000 Black community residents. My campaign statement painted these meetings in a positive light rather than describing them as Democratic Party get-out-the-vote operations from start to finish," said Ntweng.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and wealthy businessman Daniel Bakewell of the Brotherhood Crusade organized the meetings and encouraged people to reelect President William Clinton.
Another public meeting conducted by Rep. Juanita Millender- McDonald, another Democrat, was a "Congressional Inquiry into Alleged Central Intelligence Agency Involvement in the South Central Los Angeles Crack Cocaine Drug Trade." The October 19 hearing was hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the House Select Committee on Intelligence. About 800 people heard day-long testimony from a parade of professors, writers, lawyers, cops, and community activists.
Ntweng said that "workers and others went to these meetings looking for solutions to the real problems they face in their communities. They were presented with nothing but conspiracy theories that are a total diversion from a real fight for Black rights." These so-called theories point workers away from developing a materialist understanding the how the social and economic crises they face are rooted in class-divided society, and how they can be part of organizing a movement to change it, the SWP candidate said.
Ntweng also commented on the demands of the southern California SWP campaign statement which read, "Open all the contra-drug files now! Make the CIA, DEA, FBI, National Security Council come clean! Arrest and prosecute the government drug traffickers!"
"These demands foster the illusion that demands around drugs can be realized under capitalism. In fact, drugs are a major capitalist business. The cops and other government agencies are up to their ears in it; we shouldn't act shocked at that," said Ntweng.
"As capitalism declines alcoholism and other social ills proliferate, including drug abuse." The demands also perpetuate the illusion that the CIA and other government cop formations can be reformed. "These cops exist entirely in order to uphold capitalist rule. There is no way for them to come clean," Ntweng pointed out.
"This also leads me to say why it was such an error in the campaign statement to quote from Malcolm X completely out of context, thereby giving a wrong impression on what Malcolm X had to offer on this topic.
The statement read, "The capitalist system, as Malcolm X taught, aims to turn `victims into criminals.' " By presenting Malcolm X's view in this light, the statement echoed the liberal approach to working people - that we are victims, first and last, Ntweng argued.
"Lifting that quote out of its context gives the impression that Malcolm looked at Blacks as victims instead of people who have the capacity to struggle and win.
"Malcolm X put forward that workers and youth cannot blame others for conditions such as drug abuse. He pointed out that we don't have to accept the alienation and degradation that the capitalist system brings us. We can fight for our rights and assert our humanity and self-worth in that process. Blacks are a vanguard section of the working class that will be in the forefront of the battles that are coming," said Ntweng.
Ntweng explained that it is widely recognized and accepted that the CIA has a sordid history of secret actions around the world and is assigned its share of Washington's ongoing attempts to eliminate threats to U.S. dominance. "But it is dead wrong to say that the CIA poured drugs into Black community in order to devastate it as the conspiracy theories do.
"Instead of repeating these stories we need to understand that Blacks face devastating conditions not because of some plot, but because of the day-to-day workings of capitalism, which profits off the exploitation of Blacks and other oppressed nationalities. Racism is also used by the ruling class to keep the working class divided.
"Capitalism is in a crisis. That is why we see increased assaults, including the resegregation of the Black community, a rise in racist police brutality, and high unemployment hitting Blacks the hardest," said Ntweng.
Ntweng maintained that misleaders such as Waters don't point out the real enemy of Blacks: the government and all its agencies, the Democratic and Republican parties, and the wealthy ruling class that they represent.
"It is an election year and no accident that liberals in San Jose `exposed' this issue," Ntweng continued. "They want to get votes for Democrats by painting Republicans as a special threat for working people. But it is Clinton who is leading the charge against immigrant rights, attacking gay rights by signing the Defense of Marriage Act, cutting the social wage with the Welfare Reform Act, and opening the door to attacks on affirmative action."
Ntweng campaigned outside of the congressional inquiry and commented, "I got a good response from people attending this event when I explained that we have to fight against the whole capitalist system. That is why I am a socialist.
"At the same time we can and must participate in the concrete struggles of the day that can push the rulers back - like defending affirmative action, calling for equal rights for immigrants, and opposing U.S. war moves against Cuba, Iraq, and elsewhere. And we need to break from relying on both the Democratic and Republican parties, which are a major obstacle to all struggles of working people."
Gale Shangold is a member of Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees Local 482.